Washington, D.C. – A new National Governors Association Center for Best Practices (NGA Center) issue brief, Beyond EMAC: Legal Issues in Mutual Aid Agreements for Public Health Practice, describes strategies for governors wishing to assist other states facing non-emergency public health situations.
Emergency declarations by governors enable them to implement the Emergency Management Assistance Compact (EMAC), a multi-state agreement that facilitates the rapid sharing of equipment, personnel and other resources among states. In the case of a public health challenge that does not rise to the level of an emergency, however, state officials sometimes are unable to tap resources that may be located just across a state line because of legal considerations such as cost reimbursement, license and credential portability for medical or other personnel, liability and workers compensation.
“Governors face many situations that threaten the health of their citizens and challenge the response capabilities of their public health infrastructure but do not qualify as an emergency,” said John Thomasian, Director of the NGA Center. “States need to ensure that they have the proper authority and aid agreements to do so.”
As stated in the issue brief, “Any cross-border mutual aid agreement that envisions the fast and efficient transfer of equipment and/or personnel will require participating states to resolve conflicts or contradictions among applicable laws and regulations.” Recommended strategies for governors seeking to implement such an agreement include:
- Review state policies for the use of volunteer disaster workers;
- Assess whether sovereign immunity, Good Samaritan laws or other statutes provide liability protections to volunteer health professionals;
- Determine whether existing interstate agreements or arrangements which address issues of cost recovery, liability, and workers compensation might be applicable to situations affecting the public health; and
- Work with governors, legislators and public health officials in neighboring states to determine an appropriate strategy for aligning laws and regulations to facilitate the cross-border movement of public health professionals in non-emergencies.